Kinetic Art in Glasgow, my old Castle and a wild boat ride

We are in Scotland, land of my forefathers.  In 1841 my g-g-grandfather and his wife emigrated to Canada with two young children to start a new life there.  It’s always good to return to see more of this wonderful, wild and friendly country.

We decided to have a day to be tourists in Glasgow.  Last time we were there, we explored the Glasgow Art School, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a very famous and quirky architect.  This time, we decided to continue our quirky exploration with a visit to Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  We’ll start with the latter. It’s a huge beautiful building, housing both a natural history museum and an art gallery.  We loved the display of biggest and smallest animals, as well as Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross.  Hanging over the large gallery was an installation of floating heads, which I found delightful.

Moody art

We headed out to the Sharmanka Kinetic Art performance after dinner.  I found reference to this on line (I think it was searching for the top 20 things to do in Glasgow, or something like that).  During the Cold War in Soviet Russia, Eduard Bersudski worked for the parks department. In the evenings he would come home and create moveable sculptures from junk he found: old sewing machines, lawn mowers, cars, clocks, scrap metal, washing machines, etc.  He carved figures to “work” these objets, and called them “Sharmanka”, which means hurdy-gurdy in Russian.  Part of the reason for this work was to create independently from the government-controlled art of the time.  He was masterful at it. In 1993 he left Russia, looking for a better life, unable to make a living any more in Russia.  Some of his work was purchased by Glasgow Museums and he moved here.

“Jock’s Joke” – can you find the sewing machine, the lawnmower parts and the wringer washer?

There are at least 4 Singer sewing machine bits in this piece!

Here’s a closeup of one piece.

Of course, the little guy is making all these wheels turn!

All of these pieces move, and the show included lighting and music to complement the motion. Their website has a video of how these pieces work, and I’d recommend you take a look.  If you’re EVER in Glasgow with a night free, go and be delighted!

We left Glasgow to come up to Oban for a weekend visit with John’s cousin.  We have stayed here before, but were really looking forward to spending the weekend with them.  They proposed a couple of local visits while we were here.

Many years ago, when I lived in Calgary, I decided I should learn how to draw.  I believe that anyone can learn to do this sort of thing (I told my singing students that often enough!) and that it just takes patience, time and practice.  Mostly what I learned during the course is that I don’t have the interest in putting in the work to become a good drawer.  (I have found my visual art side through quilting instead.) One of the exercises I did was to reproduce a photograph with coloured pencils.  I found a gorgeous picture in a magazine of a castle somewhere, surrounded by hills that have turned to gold and orange in autumn.  I meticulously tried to reproduce the picture as best I could.  In the meantime, I memorized those hills and that ruined castle.

The first time we visited Oban, we drove along the road by Loch Awe.  As we approached the town, I began to recognize the hills.  It was uncanny, the resemblance to that picture I copied!  Then we rounded a corner and I saw the castle – MY castle!  Kilchurn Castle. On this visit, we decided we’d stop and explore it.

The outside of the castle

An amazing location, overlooking Loch Awe

I love the textures of the stonework

A thoroughly wonderful day, but the adventures weren’t over yet.  The next day we were booked on a 5 hour boat trip around some of the Inner Hebrides islands south of Oban, hopefully to see the 3rd largest tidal whirlpool in the world: Corryvreckan.

It was a cloudy day, but not too cold and without any moisture falling from the sky.  While waiting for our ship, we were serenaded by a bagpipe and drum band playing on the deck of the incoming ferry.

There’s nothing like the sound of the pipes!

We headed out on an absolutely lovely trip, seeing lots of little islands, and lonely houses perched on them.

I would love to have a month here by myself with my sewing machine and my guitar!

The possible highlight of the trip was going through the Gulf of Corryvreckan, where, if the tides are right, we might witness the 3rd largest tidal whirlpool in the world.  There is a YouTube video of it here.  Alas, we didn’t get the tides quite right to see the whirlpool, but there was evidence that we were about to get some rough seas!  We saw the standing wave from a long way off.

This is called a standing wave. It doesn’t move. Could you ride a surfboard on it?

We did see some small whirlpools, but not the big one.  However, right after we passed the standing wave, the boat started getting into some really rough seas. I took a short video just to show how we were pitching around, and promptly got thoroughly wet with a huge wave over the bow.  Woo hoo! what a ride! You can see my video at

We’re almost finished our visit to the UK.  Only a few more days before we fly home.  It’s been a great trip!



2 Responses to “Kinetic Art in Glasgow, my old Castle and a wild boat ride”

  1. Wenche Says:

    Cathy – I just LOVED your report on Sharmanka and watched every video. We’re all looking forward to your return to Victoria so we can hear everything from your latest travels!

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